How to Generate a Normal Distribution in Python

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The Normal Distribution, also known as Gaussian distribution, is one of the most important and widely used statistical distributions in various fields, including natural and social sciences, engineering, and finance. It is a continuous probability distribution that is symmetric around the mean, showing that data near the mean are more frequent in occurrence than data far from the mean.

This bell-shaped distribution is characterized by two parameters: the mean (µ) representing the center of the distribution, and the standard deviation (σ) which measures the spread or width of the distribution.

Python offers multiple ways to generate and work with normal distributions, thanks to libraries such as numpy and scipy.

Using the Normal Distribution in Python

Python’s numpy and scipy libraries provide several functions for generating and working with normal distributions.


Before starting, you need to install the necessary libraries. If not already installed, you can install them using pip:

pip install numpy
pip install scipy
pip install matplotlib

These libraries allow us to perform mathematical operations, generate and manipulate statistical distributions, and plot data.

Generating a Normal Distribution

The numpy.random.normal function can generate a normal distribution. This function takes three arguments: loc which corresponds to the mean of the distribution, scale which corresponds to the standard deviation, and size which specifies the number of random variates to generate.

Here is an example of generating a normal distribution with a mean of 0 and a standard deviation of 1 (also known as the standard normal distribution):

import numpy as np

# Set the parameters
mean = 0
std_dev = 1
size = 1000

# Generate the normal distribution
rv = np.random.normal(loc=mean, scale=std_dev, size=size)

print(rv[:5])  # print the first five values

In the code above, we’re generating 1000 random variates following a standard normal distribution.

Plotting a Normal Distribution

Once we have generated data from a normal distribution, we often want to visualize it. We can plot a histogram of the data using matplotlib.pyplot.hist and overlay the probability density function (PDF) using scipy.stats.norm.pdf. Here is how you can do this:

import matplotlib.pyplot as plt
from scipy.stats import norm

# Plot the histogram
plt.hist(rv, bins=30, density=True, alpha=0.6, color='g')

# Plot the PDF.
xmin, xmax = plt.xlim()
x = np.linspace(xmin, xmax, 100)
p = norm.pdf(x, mean, std_dev)
plt.plot(x, p, 'k', linewidth=2)

title = "Fit results: mean = %.2f,  std_dev = %.2f" % (mean, std_dev)

In this code, we first plot a histogram of the generated data with the plt.hist function. Then, we calculate the PDF and plot it as a line on top of the histogram.

Using the Normal Distribution for Hypothesis Testing

The normal distribution is commonly used in hypothesis testing, particularly in z-tests, which are used when the sample size is large enough to assume that the sample means follow a normal distribution.

Here is an example of performing a one-sample z-test using scipy.stats:

from scipy.stats import norm

# Generate the data
data = np.random.normal(loc=0, scale=1, size=1000)

# Perform a one-sample z-test
test_statistic = (np.mean(data) - 0) / (np.std(data) / np.sqrt(len(data)))

# Calculate the p-value
p_value = 2 * (1 - norm.cdf(np.abs(test_statistic)))

print(f'Test statistic: {test_statistic}')
print(f'p-value: {p_value}')

This test checks if the mean of the data is significantly different from 0. If the p-value is small (typically, less than 0.05), we reject the null hypothesis that the sample mean is equal to 0.


The normal distribution is a foundational concept in statistics and forms the basis for many statistical tests. Python, with libraries like numpy and scipy, offers powerful and easy-to-use tools for generating and working with normal distributions. Whether you’re generating data, visualizing distributions, or performing hypothesis tests, Python’s scientific libraries can handle these tasks efficiently and effectively.

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